Alpine Spa in Bürgenstock

published in sb 3/2018

Mountain and lake panorama

The Bürgenstock Alpine Spa on Lake Lucerne comprises a new design and a reworking of the legendary Alpine Spa building dating back to the 1980s. Patrik Dierks Norbert Sachs Architekten with plus4930 Sierig Geddert Krüger Architekten have integrated the visual features and the surrounding mountain scenery into the bathing experience. The spa’s new building grows out of the landscape, is inserted as a polished, artificial rock mass and interlocks with the natural rock formations.

Illustrious patrons

Perched on a striking mountain ridge, 500 metres vertically above Lake Lucerne, the Bürgenstock Resort was founded in c.1870 as an ensemble of fashionable grand hotels, before being converted by eccentric Swiss entrepreneur Fritz Frey in c.1950 into a glamorous venue that attracted the world’s celebrities. The list of illustrious patrons includes such names as German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, US President Jimmy Carter, the film stars Sean Connery and Sophia Loren with Carlo Ponti along with Audrey Hepburn and Mel Ferrer, who chose the Bürgenstock Resort for their wedding in 1954.

It was also Fritz Frey who founded the Bürgenstock Spa, wishing to offer his guests a building complex at altitude as a place to relax, bathe and feel good. A place for seeing and being seen, both opulent and idiosyncratic. Up until the 1980s, this unconventional collection of structures, drawing inspiration from American mid-century modernism, crystallised into an atmospheric, unique building entity containing wellness facilities, restaurants, an imaginatively designed Spa Garden with its kidney-shaped pool.

Rocky topography

The new building of the Alpine Spa grows out of the rocky topography and, due to its fusion with the existing building, connects to the latter in a variety of ways, while also remaining its striking foil.

The exposed position on the ridge of the Bürgenberg mountain with a long-range view across Lake Lucerne of the mountain landscape of Central Switzerland and the complex layout of the existing building called for an extremely sensitive integration of the new building which, seemingly chiselled into the rock, underpins and rounds off the existing building.

Controlled incisions open up totally new views from the spa of the surrounding mountain and lake scenery and bring the precipitous terrain well into the interior of the complex. Extroverted, light-flooded areas with distant views alternate with introverted, spatially more intimate zones and in this way develop a room landscape stage-managed in manifold ways.

In the newly created infinity pool that projects over the void, bathing in 35 °C water amid the scenery of the surrounding landscape with a panoramic view of Lake Lucerne becomes an unforgettable experience. The newly created contrast between rooms seemingly hewn into the rock and the apparent lightness of the new buildings above them find its structural expression in a base of exposed concrete with horizontal board shuttering and the clearly shaped building corpuses emerging out of it. With the gradual weathering of their finely articulated metal façade of gold-coloured copper and zinc sheeting, these seek to blend in with the black-and-brown copper façade of the existing building.

Re-thinking of the rustic

By using local alpine materials, the goal was the take up the rustic quality of the existing building but to re-think it in a contemporary vein and thus create an atmosphere commensurate with the location and with spa operations. The buildings old and new are thus linked by their materials.

The interior of the new building is distinguished by its select and reduced range of materials in the form of natural stone and stoneware for the wet areas and timber for cladding and furniture. In this way, it establishes ties with the atmospheric mood of the existing building while adding new accents.

The characteristic charm of the old building and its grounds has been preserved and amplified by the re-design of its main elements: the large indoor pool, the rustic fireside restaurant, a circular outdoor changing building plus temple, and the kidney-shaped pool of the Fifties with its underwater bar offering views inside the pool via large portholes.